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There is no one ‘BOP’.


There is no one ‘BOP’.

In this evergreen post from Shane Heywood, he identifies the importance of recognizing the difference between the rich and poor.

Non-uniform: Consumer Choices and the BOP

Despite similar low levels of income, low-income households have different product preferences and different shopping styles. Do development practitioners need a reminder of this?

Different folks, different strokes

While working in Bangladesh, with BRAC, one of the world’s largest NGO, on a Microfinance initiative 7 years ago, I met 15 women. All were clients of BRAC’s Microfinance initiative, however each had different uses for their loans, different comfort levels of sharing these plans with their colleagues, and different ways  of tracking their spend.

Travel to a different country – Ghana – in 2016, while working with a local business selling consumer products, a similar sentiment about variations in supposedly similar groups of consumers struck me. ‘Kwame,’ ‘Sarah’ and ‘Jack’ belonged to the same economic classes – yet they had very different preferences about where to shop, what to buy, and how to pay.

For me, my take away from these experiences is hardly the stuff revelations are made of: consumers –rich or poor – have different preferences and, as such, should be treated differently. Yet, it feels like effectively applying this principle might be a surprise to some in International Development.

A world of preferences and channels

First, even within one economic class, consumers have multiple product preferences.

In a presentation on approaches Social Enterprises use to sustainably serve low-income households, Erik Simanis, recalls the story of a low-cost eyewear producer that expanded their product range of glasses to (successfully!) adapt to different consumer preferences (largely driven by demographic traits) while maintaining prices.


Key points include:

  • Demographic traits
  • Strategy to address differences
  • Economic classes


Read the full post, Non-uniform: Consumer Choices and the BOP, on